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Obama's speech in Cairo:


By Paul J. Balles, Redress, June 14, 2009

Paul J. Balles views some the the deliberate omissions from US President Barack Omaba’s speech in Cairo on 4 June, which he argues are as significant as what he said in the speech.

Barack Obama's speech in Cairo was as notable for what he left out or minimized as it was for what he included.

Obama used "torture” only twice in his speech in Cairo. In the first, he said: "I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States." The second was his reference to “Buchenwald where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death".

Was that a carefully crafted message to Israel whose torture methods have been implicated in Iraq and in Israel's "secret prison" dubbed "Israel's Guantanamo Bay"? According to Israeli investigative journalist Yossi Melman, Israel has "quietly become one of the world's most important exporters of interrogation and counterterrorism methods decried by human rights groups as constituting torture and violating basic human rights".

The dual reference to torture in Obama's speech ironically implies that the Israelis have been using and teaching torture techniques they learned from their German KZ-Wächters (concentration camp guards).

Obama said: "The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms." He made it clear that his reference was to Al-Qaeda and not to Muslims.

He did not mention "terror", "terrorist" or "terrorism" once during the entire speech. He mentioned Gaza as one of the places where there are "intolerable" Palestinian refugee camps. He also referred to the "continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza".

Fresh from his complete disregard of Israel's barbarian attacks on Gaza, an onslaught that killed around 400 children, Obama’s omission certainly must have pleased those responsible for the massacres in Gaza.

Al-Quds Al-Arabi, an independent pan-Arab newspaper owned by Palestinian expatriates in London, observed that "Obama didn't offer any new initiative for ending the conflict between Israel and Palestine, an omission that frustrated many".

Among the items omitted from Obama's speech was the Palestinian right of return to the lands encroached upon through the Israeli occupation. Palestinian leaders in negotiations cannot give this right of return away.

Gilad Atzmon tells of how a Palestinian refugee pointed to him in Houston saying: "My land near Safad is my land, and no one can negotiate its fate on my behalf. Neither a Palestinian leader nor any other world leader.”

Some in the American media – especially on Fox news – castigated Obama for apologizing for American misdeeds. Had he really done that, he would have expressed deep regret that US biases were disgustingly responsible for the convictions of five men for providing charity to suffering Gazans through the Holy Land Foundation.

He did not mention Hezbollah even once. His only remark about Lebanon was related to his belief that the "richness of religious diversity must be upheld – whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt". The annihilations of civilians from all religions represented in Lebanon occurred when Israel decimated the entire infrastructure of that country in 2006.

Obama's only reference to Sunnis and Shi’is involved his reflection on how "the divisions between Sunni and Shi’i have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq".

An Israeli critic complained that Obama "did not utter even one word that might be construed as a threat or even the shadow of a threat against (Iran's nuclear programme). This, of course, ignored the fact that Obama went out of his way to expound on his commitment to Israel's well-being.

Other comments by purists and fanatics about things left out of Obama's Cairo speech are irrelevant to the issues that he wanted to address. There can be little doubt that Obama’s omissions were purposeful. What he did include needed to be brought clearly into the open.

Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see




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